Great customer experience needs more than digital

Do you want to make your customers happy? Of course you do. It’s only common sense to want to delight your customers. However, it is also becoming a bit like chasing a moving target. Over the years, customer expectations from businesses have changed. With the arrival of the millennial generation in the customer base, great customer experience has become a fundamental expectation.

As an answer, enterprises are introducing innovative models and methods of doing business. These innovative models are at core enabled by myriad technologies. Digital is fast becoming a part of life and this may lead us to think that Digital Transformation or in other words, technological enablement of digital is the key to unlocking a great customer experience.

Digital, you say? But what’s the deal…
The disruptive impact of digital is for all to see. At the same time, how the customer perceives this change forms the other side of the coin. A business engages with customer at various touch points to the best of intent. At the same time, customer perceives every engagement in the light of own expectations. Most of the times, these expectations are very basic and very human, regardless of the technology that enables the interfaces.

Take, for instance, a situation where a customer orders a gift voucher for a friend or a family member. The delivery happens to be at a place other than the known contact address of the customer. In most cases, the system takes care of treating the billing address and the shipping address separately. This is a basic expectation, a hygiene factor in the process of ordering a gift voucher. It has also started becoming common to add a personalized message, to be printed along with the gift, which is again a small technological enablement. An ordering application can typically take care of these things.

However, once the transaction of ordering is over, the fun begins. The set of expectations starts to wear varied colours from customer to customer. A tech-savvy millennial who has been ordering online frequently, expects to have a clear view of the order at every step, even including push messages at the times of dispatch and delivery. This goes beyond mobile enablement and a great ordering interface. The ability to satisfy this fundamental need boils down to one basic aspect of your organization - how well connected the systems, the processes and the people are. Add to that even the ‘things’, thanks to IoT.

It’s neither the business transaction, nor the process, nor the underlying technology that is the focus here. It’s the customer whom this sequence of activities touches, leaving an impression at every touchpoint. The significance of customer touch-points goes beyond the processes of buy-sell and product/service delivery. This significance also spans facets such as after-sales service and support, relationship management, product/service training and usage, cross-selling, repeat purchase, product return/service refund, quality assurance and customer feedback.

The cumulative layers of communication involving the customer directly or indirectly across these stages form an impression and/or sentiment in the customer’s mind, called Customer Experience. Businesses build their processes and systems in order to provide a good experience at touch-points. Employees and partners of the organization form a connecting link where systems fall short. However, whether the customer perceives the experience in the intended manner is a different question.

How can businesses ensure a positive experience and a right perception?
No organization today can afford to undermine the importance of delivering the ‘right’ experience to the customer as well as capturing it, and all of it in a timely and ‘as-is’ manner. This time bracket is shrinking rapidly for organizations. It’s a given that the millennial customers require instant gratification, else they don’t mind switching over to your competitor.

Regarding the ‘as-is’ aspect of customer experience, it involves an unbiased capturing of impression the business leaves upon the customer, including how the product/service is perceived. And a ‘right’ experience is no single, generic experience. It is subjective and contextual and needs to be crafted with a spontaneous yet managed mix of business genius as well as the human element.

The Human Element
Technology is one part and how that technology fits into the interaction with customer – sales, product delivery, product usage, product support and feedback – is another.

The point for businesses is to be precise, accurate and agile with the customer. Precision in business means a contextual understanding of the customer’s requirement. Accuracy means to execute that requirement to the customer’s satisfaction. Agility means to deliver the customer requirement with the right speed and productivity. Yet, there is a fourth element of feedback where you listen to the customer’s sentiment and infer what is said and also what is not said.

The human element would come from listening to the customer, customer empathy and regular interactions. The digital element helps the business and the customer stay connected in the right context.

To conclude, technology facilitates a good customer experience, however the experience has other equally important elements to it, such as the context, precision, accuracy and agility. The best results are obtained when these elements work in tandem.

(The article is authored by Sandeep Sehgal, AVP, Product Management, Newgen Software)

(Image: Thinkstock)
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